Sunday, May 31, 2009

Denying Communion

In my last post, there was a statement that "the denial of communion is intimidation".

The speakers were Catholic. When they say Communion, they meaning the ceremony involving "taking of the Eucharist" - the bread transmuted into the literal body of Christ.

As a Protestant, I would speak of "communion" - fellowship and meeting with other Christians.

The Catholic version is more serious. Denying the Eucharist is denying a means of grace, potentially damaging to one's eternal state. Total eviction from the Church could be interpreted as causing one to lose one's salvation (if you believe there is no salvation outside the Church).

But, there is agreement that some form of discipline is needed, as commanded by Matthew 18:15-19.

That gets back to the meaning of love. Is it loving to deny the truth? To carry on meeting and associating with someone who disagrees with fundamental teaching? Is not the most loving thing to be truthful? Even if it is hard.

Perhaps feeling the hard consequences will bring someone to right thinking.


TheDen said...

Hi Ned,

It's been a while for me since I last commented.

Good post.

I just wanted to comment on why Communion is so important to Catholics.

--Access to eternal life was taken away through Adam's Original Sin.

--Jesus Christ restores access to eternal life through His death. His cross becomes the new Tree of Life and we eat from the fruit which is His body.

--Salvation through Jesus Christ begins through Baptism (when we are united to Christ in His death)

--We are saved not through anything we do but rather through our unity with Christ. Christ is saved--we are united with Him thus we are saved.

--So, in Baptism, we are united with Christ.

--Then through the Eucharist, we assent and physically unite ourselves to the Body of Christ.

--It's through that unity that we continue to have salvation.

This can all be found in Scripture.

As a fallen away Catholic, you probably remember the priest says, "The Body of Christ" and you responded "Amen."

You probably didn't think much of it at the time but through the Eucharist, you are physically united to God. You come forward to the altar and unite yourself to Christ in a very real way.

When a person says "Amen", it's an assent to ALL the teachings of the Church--or at least should be.

The Salvation happens not necessarily because of the reception of the Eucharist but rather because we are uniting ourselves to Jesus Christ.

Now, if we are knowingly in a state of mortal sin, we cannot be in communion with the Church regardless of receiving the Eucharist as we need to be free (ie forgiven) of sin to be united to Christ (as Christ is without sin).

If we publicly decry the teachings of the Church as some politicians do, the priest cannot or rather should not give the Eucharist as they KNOW these people are not in union with the Church.

THIS is the only path to salvation that the Church knows as THIS is what was given to us by Christ.

The Church does affirm that God has the power to save whomever He chooses and that if a person does not partake in the Sacraments, then there may be other ways of receiving sanctifying grace.

That salvation however would be through the Church as the Church IS the Body of Christ.

nedbrek said...

You're descriptions always sound a lot better than my reading of the Catholic Catechism... does your priest know and agree with your descriptions? :)

How would you respond to the Protestant description of Catholic grace:
"At Baptism, you receive a small bundle of grace. You nurture and grow this grace through the Sacraments. Should you lose it, you go to Hell, and your time in Purgatory is based on how much you accumulate."

TheDen said...

Hmm…which part would a priest disagree with? I’m fairly certain everything I’ve written is in accord with Church teaching.

Everything I’ve written is in the Catechism. I’ve just laid it out in different form.

For your reference, here are some of the paragraphs from the Catechism:

Fall of Man: 397-401

Salvation through Christ: 654-655

Baptism (union with Christ in His death): 1227

Eucharist (unity with His Body): 1372

Regarding your description, I don’t think it quite captures it. When we are baptized, we receive sufficient (sanctifying) grace to be saved. Salvation doesn’t begin when we die. Salvation begins at Baptism. From there, we “work out our salvation in fear and trembling.” We must remain in Christ while we are alive. Scripture tells us this. He is the vine and we are the branches. If we are pruned, we will wither and die. When we die, if we die “in Christ” then we will achieve eternal life either through Purgatory or going directly to heaven.

St. Augustine divided the Church into three sections:

The Church Militant – We who are “fighting the good fight” and perservering while we are alive. i.e. the Church here on earth.

The Church Suffering—Those souls who are in Purgatory who need to be purged of their imperfections before seeing God.

The Church Triumphant—Those in Heaven

So, you and I are in the Church Militant still “working out our salvation.”

We lose (or “fall out”) of grace by committing grave sin. By committing mortal sin, we sever our relationship with God. We have squandered our inheritance and moved to a far away land very similar to the Prodigal Son. It’s only by coming back to God and seeking His forgiveness (through the Sacrament of Reconciliation) that we can “reconcile” ourselves back into the Body of Christ.

Regarding Purgatory, when we sin our soul becomes tarnished/blemished. God forgives the sin but the soul needs to be “purged” of any imperfections. As God is perfect, we too must be perfect to be in complete union with Him in Heaven.

So, I would reword your statement as follows:

At Baptism, we are united to Christ in His death and in that unity, we receive sanctifying grace. Throughout life, we strive to remain united to Christ in His death through the Eucharist—continuing to receive sanctifying grace. If at any time we stumble and fall out of God’s grace, we must pick ourselves up, seek forgiveness from God (through His Church) and reconcile ourselves to Christ —thus receiving additional sanctifying grace. At our death, if we die united to Christ, (either through Purgatory or Heaveh) we will share in His promise of Resurrection and enjoy eternal life. If we are not united to Christ, we have no opportunity for salvation as salvation is only through Christ.

nedbrek said...

By "striving to remain united", how do you interpret John 10:28 ("And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.")?

TheDen said...

In order to understand John 10:28, you need to understand John 6.

How does one get eternal life--as mentioned in John 10:28?

The answer was given previously in John 6:54 (as well as all throughout John 6): "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. "

Moreover, Christ says two verses later in verse 56: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." signifying the unity that I had referred to previously.

Finally, to be "plucked from His hand", this CANNOT be done if we remain in Christ. We remain in Him primarily in obedience to Him.

By being obedient to Christ in all things, Christ is our shield. Satan can only attack us in our weaknesses. The most important virtue is humility.

Earlier in John 10, Christ talks about how He is the shepherd and we are the sheep who hear His voice. If we truly hear His voice, we obey His commands and do whatever He tells us. It's when we listen to other voices--mainly choosing our own interest over God's that we are vulnerable to being "plucked."

So, in short, His sheep are obedient to His word. Disobedience leads to being taken away by thieves.